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Shields, Brooks on Obama’s Need to Set Realistic Goals, ‘Constituency Coddling’

September 6, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
NewsHour political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks join Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill to look at excerpts of President Obama's nomination acceptance speech and discuss what he must accomplish: a specific plan for America's advancement that is both realistic and aspirational.

GWEN IFILL: And now to a few final words from Mark Shields and David Brooks.

David, since you joined us at the top of the show, we now have excerpts from President Obama’s speech later tonight.

And you — I remember you telling us in Tampa we should never believe in the excerpts they put out in advance as being a sign of what is actually in the speech.


DAVID BROOKS: These are actually a little better than most.

GWEN IFILL: OK. Tell me what…

DAVID BROOKS: Usually, it’s, good evening, ladies and gentlemen. That’s your excerpt.

But, here, we have got some actual goals that he’s going to lay out, creating a million new manufacturing jobs, doubling exports by 2014. So, these goals suggest he actually is going to lay out some policies, which would be a good thing.

Some of the goals strike me as extremely modest, reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over a decade. That’s like a hundred million a year. That’s not that much. But they’re real goals. So it suggest he is going to lay out a vision of influencing the economy in little distinct places, which suggests he is going to lay out a vision.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Are these the kinds of things, Mark, that you’re looking for?

MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I think, Judy, most of all is the result, the sense of reassurance, as part — Michael and Richard in their discussion, that the second term is going to be better than the first.

And a million new jobs in manufacturing, we have seen manufacturing jobs increase in the country for the first time really since the late 1990s. And I think what you have here is a modest goal, quite frankly. Bill Clinton, 21 million new jobs in eight years, which was a rather remarkable achievement.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, even then, as we were talking to Richard Norton Smith about, whatever promise he makes, it is, as Richard said, a leap of faith about whether he can accomplish it. So, do you go big?

DAVID BROOKS: Doubling exports by 2014, I guarantee you we will do that. Exports are shooting upwards.

A lot of these are carefully calibrated to be met even if he lies down on the couch for a couple years. So he’s being realistic, you would say. But we will see what policies he suggests to get us to these goals.

MARK SHIELDS: Bill Clinton spoke about arithmetic last — and I think David might have been wrong on arithmetic.

Cutting it $4 trillion is more than $100 billion a year.


MARK SHIELDS: Yes. It’s a trillion dollars a year. Right?

DAVID BROOKS: Not over a decade.

MARK SHIELDS: Oh, over a decade. OK, over a decade. So it would be $400 billion…

GWEN IFILL: But if you, Mark, are Bill Clinton and you’re talking about the future tonight, how do you do that? How do you do that in a way that takes you out of here with any kind of a boost?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, you have got to — it’s got to be a sense that it is realistic, that people say I understand now where he wants to take us. I understand how we want to get there and how he will lead us there and what’s expected of all of us.

I think the most important thing — and it’s something that Democrats have done at their best and infrequently — is really to answer the question, are we better off and how we are going to be better off in the next four year, rather than simply, are you?

Are the least among us going to be more secure? Are the powerful among us — going to be more jobs? I think those are the kinds of questions that he has to propose and has to answer for people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I just want to come back quickly, David, to this leap of faith idea.

Is it — looking out in the camera at those millions, presumably, or we don’t know how many, watching and getting them to believe that he can make things different…

DAVID BROOKS: People are aspirational, and they’d like to envision a country that they will be living in, in a few years

And so he can’t just lay out a couple policies. I don’t think he will do that. He has to lay out a specific vision of which type of people he would want us to be. With the Republicans, it’s very clear. They want us to be a self-reliant, entrepreneurial, competitive people.

What sort of people does Barack Obama want us to be? How can we imagine that person? What sort of life will they be living? You have got to embed the policies in a story about what the country could be.

GWEN IFILL : Does there have to be a pivot tonight? We have seen — and you both have commented on it frequently — this that felt very much like a base convention, playing to the constituencies that are already Democratic, not to the middle or the independents or to swing voters.

So, at some point, when does he turn the corner?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think, Gwen, David made the key point that, from 7:00 to 10:00, it’s been nothing but base every night.


MARK SHIELDS: And then, from 10:00 on, they have tried to talk to a large group.

But, still, they have gone back to caressing the erogenous zones of the body politic.

GWEN IFILL : My goodness.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ooh, I don’t know if we can allow that kind of language. This is a family program, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS: They have. They have done an awful lot of constituency coddling.

And I think that can’t — this speech cannot be constituency coddling at all.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we’re going to go back…

DAVID BROOKS: One Mary J. Blige song, he’s out of control.